Co-dependency

Resources on this page apply primarily to co-dependency and recovery for friends and families with addicted loved ones. Browse books, links and videos.

Most of us didn’t start out thinking we were co-dependent.  We certainly weren’t trying to be but at some point doing the right thing, helping and being responsible turned into doing the wrong thing, enabling and trying to take responsiblity for things that were completely outside of our control. Recovering from co-dependency means learning to let go of our unhealthy attachments to other people.  And that is not as easy as it sounds…

“Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.”  ~ Deborah Reber

For me, the problem with co-dependent behavior is that it is so inexplicably entangled with love.  This may not be the case for everyone, but for many, co-dependency is most frequently played out in relationships with the people we care about the most.  For better or worse, whether family or friends, these are the people we share our lives with and usually they are the subject of our thoughts for the majority of our waking hours.  Our own happiness becomes secondary, unimportant, dependent from moment to moment on someone else’s state of happiness and well being.  It’s easy to say, “Detach, let go, move on… “  But when you’re talking about your spouse?   Your parents?  Siblings?  Your own children?  Then it’s not quite so easy to do.

Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint where our co-dependent behaviors began to take root.  In some cases they go all the way back to childhood.  When the trauma of alcoholism or addiction, mental or physical illness or abuse is present in the family of origin co-dependency is extremely common.  As children our feeling of safety depends primarily on our parents, their relationship with each other and the knowledge that we are cared for.  In situations where we become the care-giver or have been over exposed to the burdens of the adults in the home that inner child isn’t allowed to develop fully or mature in a healthy way.  Our coping mechanisms seem to follow us into our adult lives and they don’t usually serve us well.

There are of course other causes for co-dependency.  Relationships that involve abuse or addiction are common triggers for unhealthy thoughts and reactions at any age.  This can also lead to a long list of self numbing behaviors which happen to include turning to drugs and alcohol ourselves.   Interestingly enough the reverse is also true.  The unhealthy relationships and situations involved with substance abuse can lead to co-dependent behavior that must be addressed in sobriety.  Grief, depression, eating disorders and many other difficulties can be involved in the cycle as well.  No matter which came first the link between co-dependency and addiction is important to note, especially because the road to recovery is so similar.

Programs like Co-Dependents Anonymous and Al-Anon follow the same 12-Step path that has proven so successful for alcoholics and addicts all over the world.  It seems that these steps can work to address all sorts of emotional disturbances and spiritual maladies in the same way because our thoughts and behavior can become an addiction in and of themselves.  Working the steps, having a sponsor and being involved in a recovery minded community provide support and direction as we move toward healing.

Unlike the clear line of demarcation between sobriety and relapse, co-dependent behavior isn’t cut and dried.  We walk a fuzzy line to create healthy relationships, sometimes with very unhealthy loved ones.  We can’t stop interacting, thinking and feeling altogether and we shouldn’t.  Like the recovering addict we must work the program every single day, paying attention to old thought patterns and behaviors as they crop up and choosing new and better responses.  Combined with some healthy boundaries, self care and holistic healing modalities like yoga, meditation and EFT, 12-Step programs give us the tools we need to detach in a loving way that supports everyone involved.

Remember, your recovery is for you not for your loved ones.  Maybe your concern for someone else is what brought you here but don’t let it be the focus of your healing.  One of the most important lessons we learn is that we are powerless over others.  We cannot control them and we are not responsible for them.  They do not define or complete us no matter how much we love them.  We are no longer rescuing or excusing anyone’s behavior, we are no longer dependent on someone else’s happiness or success, now we are learning to create and experience our own.

For more information on the Steps and co-dependency:

The Steps

Co-dependency Literature

http://www.coda.org/

http://www.nar-anon.org/Nar-Anon/Nar-Anon_Home.html

http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/

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